20/12/2016 11:03 SAST | Updated 20/12/2016 12:25 SAST

ANC Calls For Saldanha Bay Mayor's Suspension After Shocking Remarks On Closed Beaches

"People come and open their boots and they're full of liquor. It's a big problem here, especially when they come with taxis."

South Head Lighthouse, Saldanha Bay, Western Cape, South Africa.
UIG via Getty Images
South Head Lighthouse, Saldanha Bay, Western Cape, South Africa.

Saldanha Bay Mayor Marius Koen must be suspended immediately following apparent "racist" remarks concerning beach access, the ANC's West Coast branch said on Monday.

"The people of Saldanha Bay are no drunkards, vandalist[s] or noisy," said the regional branch's spokesperson Sammy Claassen in a statement.

"We reject the mayor's utterances against the people of Saldanha Bay and view [them] as racist. It is completely insensitive towards coloured and African people who want to enjoy themselves at the beach during this festive season."

The political party was responding to remarks made by Koen contained in an article published in The Star and Cape Times newspapers.

The Democratic Alliance-led municipality head said there had been road closures at beach fronts to keep "law and order" as, at times, people arrived at the beach by the "taxi-load, bringing noise, vandalism and drunkenness".

Residents who live near the beach front at Saldanha Bay had been granted access passes to the area while the rest were allegedly searched and not allowed to park in certain designated spots.

Koen told the Cape Times that there was no racism behind access control policies. He said the entrance was closed because the beach could get full at different times. After some time, cars were allowed to use the parking area after they were searched.

"The point is, we don't want cars there. People come and open their boots and they're full of liquor. It's a big problem here, especially when they come with taxis. Then it turns into an all-night party," he said.

Koen added that this was not the first time this has happened, and that it was in terms of the law.

The ward councillor, Frank Pronk, said was sure that "people who live there don't drink on the beach like that".

"They pay a lot of tax, and to wake up to broken bottles and mess like that is not a nice thing," he said. He added that a caravan park in the area had in the 80s been one of the best places to camp in the country, but that now "it's a place you don't want to be".

Claassen said the statement was "clearly referring to poor disadvantaged coloured and African people". In this case, he said, "law enforcement is just the smokescreen".

Claassen said the ANC would lay a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission over the matter. It would also urge the municipality to take action, he said.

The incident follows hot on the heels of a racist Facebook rant over Durban's crowded beaches, by Ben Sasonof on the weekend. The post echoed Penny Sparrow's similarly-themed rant on the social media network last year this time.

Sipho Hlongwane, Huffington Post South Africa blogs editor, has written that these incidents are simply symptoms of structural racism that exists in South African society, and not isolated incidents.

"Racism is a structure that exists all year round, and examples of it happen all of the time. (Maybe if you believed your black colleagues every time they complained about it, you wouldn't be so surprised by Penny Sparrow, eh?)," wrote Hlongwane. "We only happen to notice it more during this time because more people are daytime drinking and browsing through their Facebook, most likely in an attempt to distract themselves from the presence of some insufferable family member."

Read the rest of Hlongwane's post here: Dezemba Is Always Going To Be A Little Racist. Here's Why.